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galtgulch

Passing the torch!

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There are a number of side topics one could debate, such as what are the reasons why each person on a list who drifted away from Objectivism did so, but that's not the heart of the issue. If there is one point I made that I'd want to underscore - and try to keep the focus on - it is this:

No highly complex or radical system of ideas can spread or even be thoroughly understood without formal, systematic training.

Easier ideas, simpler ideas, more 'intuitive' ideas, yes.

A radically new (and often easy to misunderstand or misapply) philosophy, no.

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There are a number of side topics one could debate, such as what are the reasons why each person on a list who drifted away from Objectivism did so, but that's not the heart of the issue. If there is one point I made that I'd want to underscore - and try to keep the focus on - it is this:

No highly complex or radical system of ideas can spread or even be thoroughly understood without formal, systematic training.

Easier ideas, simpler ideas, more 'intuitive' ideas, yes.

A radically new (and often easy to misunderstand or misapply) philosophy, no.

I agree but I don't think objectivism is complex at all. I do not believe objectivists need formal, systematic training, and I think that encouraging such could cause problems.

I view objectivism as a philosophy where the individual chooses what applies to him/her. If reason is a man's only absolute, then creating a setting in which people are taught as if it were sunday school can be hazardous to the philosophy's standards.

I'd like to believe it is a simple as this:

There are no contradictions. Check your premises. One of them is wrong.

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There are a number of side topics one could debate, such as what are the reasons why each person on a list who drifted away from Objectivism did so, but that's not the heart of the issue. If there is one point I made that I'd want to underscore - and try to keep the focus on - it is this:

No highly complex or radical system of ideas can spread or even be thoroughly understood without formal, systematic training.

Easier ideas, simpler ideas, more 'intuitive' ideas, yes.

A radically new (and often easy to misunderstand or misapply) philosophy, no.

For Objectivism to "succeed" it needs to displace or subvert the psychological genius of Christianity. The most important thing is the individualism of that faith which prevents ideologies from going wild and slaughtering millions. Someday, "Objectivism" might slaughter millions. Christianity's slaughtering days seem to be behind it.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Jeff & Dodger; Speaking for myself you two blow me away for your intelligence. When Shirley Temple was making movies in the 30ths there were people who claimed she was a midget. She wasn't! Reading some of your posts I think you're both graduate students in college not high school students. Jeff; Is your fellow classmate written up today in USA Today?

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Jeff & Dodger; Speaking for myself you two blow me away for your intelligence. When Shirley Temple was making movies in the 30ths there were people who claimed she was a midget. She wasn't! Reading some of your posts I think you're both graduate students in college not high school students. Jeff; Is your fellow classmate written up today in USA Today?

And Ive only made about 10 posts :)

For Objectivism to "succeed" it needs to displace or subvert the psychological genius of Christianity. The most important thing is the individualism of that faith which prevents ideologies from going wild and slaughtering millions. Someday, "Objectivism" might slaughter millions. Christianity's slaughtering days seem to be behind it.

I agree somewhat, however, Christianity wasnt a genius psychological achievement; it was just a smart way to attract people--grace. When people are given an oppurtunity to believe that in the end nothing matters but their beliefs then of course they are going to follow the religion.

Now I tend to disagree with you here because Objectivism is something of a different breed. It is not a religion, and there are no deities that one must follow. There is no written code; only what Ayn Rand wrote. It can be interpreted many ways, but I doubt there will ever be a day when something is done in the name of 'Objectivism.' In order for any movement to be completely one sided (as in, all beliefs are the same) there would have to be some sort of code/standard that members of the philosophy must follow, but I have yet to see any. The only code I know is that you should use your mind to its greatest ability, and work for your own happiness, and whatever you can do to achieve it is morally acceptable.

Perspectives differ, and in objectivism there are bound to be inner quarrels, but it isnt a bad thing. It means that we arent sheep and that we, as a group, compliment each other in our disagreements. If we all were justified by one another and always agreed, hazardous things could happen, IE: Superiority Complexes, close mindedness, etc.

As long as we remain self aware everything should be fine.

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Don't get too cocky, Dodger, took me less than that.

As far as what I meant by top down education in Objectivism not working, I meant teaching Objectivism (literally or by example) from a position of authority in a democratic society. When you're in authority in America your ass is constantly on the line. You can't hold onto your ideals and stay by them while expecting to stay in a position of authority (government or social). Too many people disagree and will react too quickly and you'll be gone. Any type of Objectivist movement has to be bottom up. People have to agree with it, then figures of authority can get into it.

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Don't get too cocky, Dodger, took me less than that.

As far as what I meant by top down education in Objectivism not working, I meant teaching Objectivism (literally or by example) from a position of authority in a democratic society. When you're in authority in America your ass is constantly on the line. You can't hold onto your ideals and stay by them while expecting to stay in a position of authority (government or social). Too many people disagree and will react too quickly and you'll be gone. Any type of Objectivist movement has to be bottom up. People have to agree with it, then figures of authority can get into it.

Not cocky, just self assured :)

Anyways, I see your point. However, I believe it can be played both ways.

If someone is to gain influential power (whether it be political or not) they can use their influence and popularity to spread objectivism. I believe the best way to go about gaining respect and influence is not through political means, but by entrepreneurship.

It is my firm belief that if I am to start a business from the bottom and work my way up and become one of the leading corporations in America (Fortune 500 or so) and get my hands into as much as possible that eventually, I would be able to influence others to a degree. However, its 4:25 AM and I'm half asleep, so I'll expand on my ideas when I'm awake.

:)

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I agree but I don't think objectivism is complex at all. I do not believe objectivists need formal, systematic training, and I think that encouraging such could cause problems.

I agree. I think the idea that Objectivism is something you have to study for years is absolute nonsense. You can read Rand's complete non-fiction works in a matter of days. Add a few weeks to chew on it, find all the holes, contradictions and non sequiturs, and you know all you'll ever need about Objectivism. The rest is endless interpretations by exegetes, scribes and mullahs of what Rand really meant with this or that term or phrase and how you would apply this or that idea in a specific situation. That may be fine for the Hsiehs of this world, but not for an intelligent, independent mind that can draw its own conclusions.

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Never seen a big businessman with enough social pull to work towards a social goal that is against common social flow and have any sort of noticeable effect. However, I hope you do.

I'm with you guys about how Objectivism needs to be taught. Formalized training? Just read the books and participate in the community a bit.

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Never seen a big businessman with enough social pull to work towards a social goal that is against common social flow and have any sort of noticeable effect. However, I hope you do.

I'm with you guys about how Objectivism needs to be taught. Formalized training? Just read the books and participate in the community a bit.

I don't like the word social. :getlost:

I dont believe I have a moral obligation to pursue a social goal with objectivism but I do believe that anyone with power can at least open the door for others. I'd rather be a detached leader than that of a sympathetic teacher.

Edited by Dodger

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One ex-Objectivist who has been pretty productive is Will Wilkinson, who now works for the Cato Institute.

You can see what he's been up to on his blog, the Flybottle:

http://willwilkinson.net/flybottle/

Much of his work these days pertains to empirical studies of human happiness. He's recently completed a 41-page Policy Analysis titled "In Pursuit of Happiness Research" that I look forward to reading... when high grading season is over.

The reasons that Will is an ex-Objectivist are varied, but you can see some of them laid out in some of his older blog posts, under the Objectivism topic.

He argues that much of what Rand has to say about ethics is inconsistent with the findings of psychology, the other social sciences, and evolutionary biology. As an advocate of a different brand of evolutionary psychology from the currently fashionable Version 4.0 (the version that stems from Wilson, Trivers, and Dawkins, among others, and is so often weirdly blended with the frankly anti-evolutionary doctrines of Chomsky and Fodor), I frequently disagree with the details of his arguments. But I think he is completely right about Rand being an ethical naturalist whose claims about what constitutes a happy life are testable against data and should be getting tested against data, instead of being insulated from contemporary science and gently handled like objects of religious veneration. He is also completely right about Rand having nothing near an adequate account of human sociality.

Robert Campbell

PS. It's largely coincidental, but today's news feed from the Atlassphere mentions "In Pursuit of Happiness Research."

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> He argues that much of what Rand has to say about ethics is inconsistent with the findings of psychology, the other social sciences, and evolutionary biology. [Robert C]

Bizarre and absurd (if he's talking about the Objectivist ethics -substantively- and in its core principles). Rand proves the core of it, rational egoism, in "The Objecivist Ethics" essay - and in all kinds of secondary arguments elsewhere.

Your summary of what Wilkinson is saying above only supports my point about these former graduate students I mentioned not having understood Objectivism because they were never thoroughly grounded in it via the courses or programs at TOC. If I were a trainer or teacher of Objectivism or would want to listen to WW's dismissal of the Objectivist ethics, I would ask someone like him to:

1. Write a clear and simple essay (systematic, all in one place...and not, for example, taking refuge in unnecessarily academic or "fuzzy" jargon) in which he explains -exactly- why the findings of these other disciplines 'disprove' rational egoism . . . just to take the -core- of Rand's ethics.

2. **Far more important**, if it is not moral to be a rational egoist, he needs to lay out his alternative. What is the -correct- ethics. And his PROOF of it.

That usually will leave the Bryan Registers, Will Wilkinsons, etc. fumbling for an answer....or dodging the assignment.

By the way, writing papers like this on many topics is part of the systematic training program that I suggest is mandatory if you want to actually understand Objectivism.

As I said, it's incomprehensible to me that David Kelley never understood that this kind of training is MANDATORY. And even if (as you mistakenly believe) there are contradictions or mistakes in the philosophy itself ( mistakes in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, or politics -- as opposed to Rand's view on psychology), systematic training and exploration would allow those to be found, addressed, 'patched', corrected.

......

One further point regarding the people that I mentioned in my post, if they thought there were holes or key errors in the philosophy and they were once seriously interested in careers in philosophy, why haven't the fixed them or come up with their own philosophy - RegisterWilkinsonianDamian-ism?

Even without a training program, if they haver any smarts at all, and more importantly any idealism, it should have been clear that the world is perishing for *lack* of a correct philosophy. Didn't they "get" that from Rand? Why have I not heard of their stepping forward like Rand did and putting forth the philosophy that would save a world in a state of tremendous danger in some substantive way which will produce happiness and freedom and justice and peace?

Light a lamp instead of simply cursing the darkness (or imaginary flaws in a philosophy of reason.)

....

It's quite possible that WW or others are 'productive' people in some ways, but that's not the issue I've named above. Just as an aside, I've looked at his flybottle blog from time to time...and there is both good stuff - and utterly ridiculous stuff in there that you would not think someone who actually understood Objectivism would maintain.

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> But I think he is completely right about Rand being an ethical naturalist whose claims about what constitutes a happy life are testable against data and should be getting tested against data, instead of being insulated from contemporary science and gently handled like objects of religious veneration. He is also completely right about Rand having nothing near an adequate account of human sociality.

Again, Robert, these are true points (and you and I have discussed some of these on various lists).

But they are not the ones at issue: the fundamental philosophy.

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Phil & Robert; Have either of you ever had this discussion with David Kelley. I am in complete agreement about the writing. I think you don't understand a topic until you can write about it.

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Anything else substantive? or responding to the level of detail of my last post?

Don't go away, Phil. I intend to respond to your post -- and to others -- but it's late at night and I only now discovered this thread.

Barbara

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> Phil & Robert; Have either of you ever had this discussion with David Kelley [Chris]

I've tried, both in person at conferences and through email. I haven't found him particularly interested in talking or responding to me personally. (Of course, this could perhaps vary with the person who is trying to engage him.)

By contrast, when I knew Peikoff I always found him quite willing to answer and engage in more substantive dialogue with me or give full, non-cryptic answers -- for example, when I challenged him or made suggestions about policies and approaches -- or when I suggested he sell transcripts of his lecture tapes or wondered why he didn't accept Clint Eastwood's offer to film Atlas. Just to give two of many interactions I've had with Leonard Peikoff.

I don't assume that important Oist leaders always have completely thought through policies or have the final word on how to spread or advance our philosophy and am not shy about asking or make suggestions or even criticizing. But Peikoff recognized that I always do so politely and intelligently. He sometimes found me irritating when I challenged him or was too persistent, but he recognized that I was bright and had good ideas (and, hopefully, that I meant well).

And he was willing to engage with me on each issue. I've never had the same reaction of being willing to talk much from David Kelley. And I don't think I've gotten stupider or had points which were of less value to offer in the years since Peikoff. Nor do I think he is any more busy than Peikoff.

I actually gave Peikoff long lists of questions at many? each? of his lecture series, because I sensed he took the responsibility of answering -good- questions and challenges extremely seriously. He would joke about my handing him a "treatise", but he did tell me that many of my questions which he couldn't answer right now would "work their way into future lecture series". And I have sensed that some issues I raised have come up in that way. And that I may have actually spurred his thinking on a point or two.

It's hard to be completely sure about this as it was never discussed, but I knew him for close to twenty years and always felt taken seriously and treated, not with personal friendship, but with a sort of (sometimes grudging) intellectual respect by Leonard Peikoff. Even when I irritated him or disagreed with him. (I can sometimes be a bit too brash or abrasive in how I raise an issue.)

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Phil; With regard to David Kelley that has been my experience. Maybe he doesn't feel it's his expertise.

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I think there is more to an education in Objectivism than Dragonfly supposes:

I think the idea that Objectivism is something you have to study for years is absolute nonsense. You can read Rand's complete non-fiction works in a matter of days. Add a few weeks to chew on it, find all the holes, contradictions and non sequiturs, and you know all you'll ever need about Objectivism.

I realize that Dragonfly isn't recommending the good old-fashioned anti-scholarly procedure, but I also suspect that persons who are slower to recognize the implications of what Rand is saying might benefit from further study. (I certainly didn't recognize some important implications of what Rand was saying a few weeks after completing my reading of her existing non-fiction works. That could, of course, be taken as proof that my irremediable slowness on the uptake :))

Meanwhile, I agree with Phil that writing about Rand's ideas and their implications is beneficial.

Still, I don't know why Phil is so sure that Will Wilkinson couldn't produce an adequate critique of the Objectivist ethics. Will generally argues that, if Rand's arguments for the Objectivist ethics are valid, then practitioners of the Objectivist ethics will on the average enjoy longer and/or more fulfilling lives than non-practitioners thereof. But the available empirical evidence does not indicate that Objectivists are happier than non-Objectivists. Is this the only relevant argument? No. Are there counters to it? Yes. But it can't be ruled out of court as Phil appeared to suggest in his post.

Nor is any of Will's arguments rendered worthless simply because it is expressed in the language of analytical philosophy. (And I'm not saying this out of any great love for the language of analytical philosophy...) If an analytical philosopher demanded that any exposition or defense of Rand's ideas be entirely free of any Objectivist jargon, I doubt that Phil would consider that to be a fair requirement.

Meanwhile, I can't address what Bryan Register would be able to answer, because I don't know any of his work since he published his article on concepts several years ago.

So far as I know, the Ayn Rand Institute model of education in Objectivism, as exemplified by OAC, does involve writing lots of papers. But judging the process, as any non-insider has to, by the quality of the arguments put forth in public by people connected with OAC, I see no evidence that any criticial thinking about Objectivism is being expressed in the vast bulk of that written work--or encouraged on the rare occasions when it does get expressed.

Whatever good qualities Leonard Peikoff has exhibited in his responses to Phil, the fact remains that he published Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. The fact also remains that has tried to use arguments from intimidation against anyone who might take exception to any of the claims he makes for the "DIM" hypothesis. I could go on, but I think my point is clear.

I would like to see The Atlas Society do more teaching of Objectivism. I would like to see TAS relying on both well-informed instructors who are largely in agreement with Rand and well-informed instructors who are critical of Rand on some issues. But because TAS considers itself an Objectivist organization, there is no clear role for the latter kind of instructor. You would never know it from all of the denunciations of heresy that the Orthodoxy puts forth, but there is actually extreme reluctance, among those with some official role at TAS, to say that Rand was wrong about anything important.

My opportunities to discuss these matters with David Kelley haven't been zero, but they have been far from extensive. And I'm no position to influence policy at TAS. I'm content to contribute in whatever small ways are mutually agreeable to me and to David Kelley and Will Thomas. I haven't set out to be a public representative of Objectivism and would find that role dreadfully confining if I tried to take it on. I suspect that most people who have something to contribute to the more widespread understanding of Objectivism would rather not become public representatives of that point of view.

Robert Campbell

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Robert;

I realize that Dragonfly isn't recommending the good old-fashioned anti-scholarly procedure, but I also suspect that persons who are slower to recognize the implications of what Rand is saying might benefit from further study. (I certainly didn't recognize some important implications of what Rand was saying a few weeks after completing my reading of her existing non-fiction works. That could, of course, be taken as proof that my irremediable slowness on the uptake )

Very valid point, and I think the way to best solve this problem would be to have a community (not a forum, though it is effective) type of setting in which newcomers to objectivism can learn from other's wisdom.

Eh I need to sand the edges on this idea, but you see where I'm going with this I hope. :)

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I realize that Dragonfly isn't recommending anti-scholarly procedure, but I also suspect that persons who are slower to recognize the implications of what Rand is saying might benefit from further study. (I certainly didn't recognize some important implications of what Rand was saying a few weeks after reading her existing non-fiction works. That could, of course, be taken as proof that I'm dense :))

Well, if you want further study, then don't study the orthodox literature from Peikoff et co unless you want to become an orthodox Objectivist yourself. What use are all the extensions and applications if the basis is not solid? Study the critical literature, that will be much more enlightening. Even if you don't agree with the criticisms, you might start to think about them, instead of swallowing the gospel uncritically. You learn far more by learning to think yourself about the problems, realizing there are problems (which the orthodox faction won't tell you) instead of waiting for someone to hand the ready-made solutions on a platter to you so that you only have to push a button to get the desired answer to any real-life question. By learning to think independently instead of trusting the wisdom of the authorities you can find those answers yourself.

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I think we have to study both the critical and the orthodox views for real wisdom about Objectivism (in addition to Rand and early Branden, of course). Some of the arguments on both sides are pretty subtle and deserve rational examination.

In terms of education, I see some all-encompassing lecture series and books that try to present the philosophy from all angles. I have not seen a really didactic approach of starting simple and getting more complex as you go along.

Some other independent efforts I have seen mix the Objectivism of Rand with what the author thinks Objectivism should be and present it as if it were the same.

Presenting a warts-and-all Objectivism course with elementary, intermediate and advanced levels, with focus on the student thinking for himself, would make a good project.

Michael

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I think arguing about or trying to identify whether or not one is an "orthodox Objectivist" is to use an ambiguous term. It could either mean

i) accepting the anti-tolerance judgmentalism of "Fact and Value" [not my position]

-or- ii) it can mean fully, fundamentally being in agreement with the philosophy of Objectivism [my view].

Please do not mush the two together in using floating concepts like "orthodox" or the equivalent. Do not substitute negative and 'loaded' adjectives like this or the equivalent for detailed, specific, and precise debate.

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Phil,

If there were agreement over what Objectivism is, I would agree that there needs to be no differentiation. However there is no such agreement and the orthodox Objectivists are very loud in making that point.

When I use "orthodox," I am specifically referring to ARI sanctioned/promoted literature and lectures and events. I believe Robert is also.

What I am mulling over is a course in what Will Thomas referred to as "canonical Objectivism," but mentioning where controversies have arisen (without adopting any party line). He gave a talk on the four kinds of Objectivism that have developed in the world at the TAS 2006 Summer Seminar. I don't know if you were present.

So while I respect the good will behind your request, I do not think the way you identified the use of "orthodox" as correct. Still, it is a good idea to define terms.

Michael

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> Study the critical literature, that will be much more enlightening. Even if you don't agree with the criticisms, you might start to think about them, instead of swallowing the gospel uncritically. [Dragonfly]

This is a thread about spreading Objectivism. If Dragonfly believes that parts of Objectivism are false, or that it shouldn't be spread, or that training in Objectivism is mindless indoctrination in things which are false, start a thread *identifying them* and clearly explaining why. That would be a good example of what he calls "learning to think independently."

What this thread is for, as indicated in the title, is for those who want to explore the spread of the ideas....and we are discussing the mechanisms, why it hasn't spread to date, what can be done about it. [if you want to argue that Oism hasn't spread because it or key parts of its core are false, that would be another issue.]

Once again, you wouldn't say with regard to someone teaching 2 + 2 = 4 that one should "Study the critical literature, that will be much more enlightening" or "the basis is not solid". So the issue is whether what you are being trained in is true and whether you are supposed to just accept its truth as opposed to verifying it for yourself.

Dragonfly posts in al manner which does not fairly respond to the position actually being advocated on this thread: There is nothing that I said when I advocated an "Objectivist training program" that suggests that my method would be one of mindless, uncritical acceptance.

You would, just as one example, prersent the view of -serious, philosophical critics-, e.g. the historical views of Hume, Kant, pragmatism, positivism, etc. and ask the students to try to answer them. But you don't ask students to try to answer sophisticated or trickly conundrums of skeptics before they have more knowledge than they get just by absorbing Galt's speech.

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When I use "orthodox," I am specifically referring to ARI sanctioned/promoted literature and lectures and events. I believe Robert is also.

Exactly.

When I refer to "orthodox Objectivism" or "the Orthodoxy," I mean the point of view put forth by the Ayn Rand Institute.

I woudn't call fundamental agreement with Objectivism "orthodox," for two reasons:

(1) ARI, following Rand in some of her moods, insists on acceptance of an entire system, in exhaustive detail, not "mere" agreement with fundamentals.

(2) There is some room for debate as to what the fundamentals are.

I don't have a dog in this particular hunt. I don't call myself an Objectivist because I disagree with some claims that Rand, at least, thought were fundamental.

Robert Campbell

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